Research and Postsecondary Education in Geriatrics and Gerontology

Following a rigorous peer-review process, the RTO/ERO Foundation announced in the Fall of 2016 a total of $100,000 in funding for four new grants related to aging research and the training of post-secondary students in geriatrics and gerontology. 

Evaluation of a Standardized, Online Dementia Education Program for Post-Secondary Healthcare Students

The behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD), such as agitation, repetitive vocalizations, exit-seeking, refusing care, and aggression are commonly exhibited by older adults with dementia across all health care settings in Canada, occurring in as many as 50% of patients. 

Post-secondary healthcare students have limited knowledge about the behavioural impacts of dementia and skills in how best to react to challenging behaviours. The students’ lack of understanding can result in avoidance of patients with dementia when encountered in any health care sector.

A grant for $ 24,989 was awarded to Ryerson University, AGE and McMaster University for this project, which aims to build students’ capacity to support patients with dementia who display challenging behaviours with non-medical intervention.   

The goal of this project is to study a dementia education program for post-secondary multidisciplinary health care students, with the aim of building the students’ capacity to support patients with dementia who display challenging behaviours. 

The funds from the RTO Foundation will be used to: 

  • provide students with access to the GPA eLearn program
  • provide handouts and educational materials to all students attending the 8th Annual Geriatrics Skills Day Workshop
  • support the data collection costs
  • fund multidisciplinary student representatives to participate in the planning of the 8th Annual Geriatric Skills Day Workshop and participate in data analysis and interpretation
  • hire research assistants who will conduct focus groups and individual interviews
  • fund 2 student representatives to present findings at the Canadian Association on Gerontology (CAG) conference in October 2017 and a team member to present at the Canadian Conference on Medical Education and Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing Education conference in 2018
  • contribute to the cost of publishing a manuscript in an open access scientific journal to disseminate the findings to a broad audience of academic and clinical educators/researchers in geriatrics and gerontology, and
  • contribute to the cost of hosting a group of key stakeholders such as educators and family caregivers to review the study findings during a think tank meeting to assist in building recommendations from our study for overall health care education in the province of Ontario.

A Toolkit for Healthcare Professionals caring for older LGBT Adults facing the End of Life

Older adults who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) continue to face discrimination and marginalization within Canada resulting in them being less likely than older heterosexual adults to seek healthcare support.

Disparities experienced by LGBT individuals have been documented and range from negative effects of stigmatization to reduced access to social services. Additionally, in comparison to their heterosexual peers, LGBT older adults are more socially isolated, more likely to live alone, more concerned about finances, more likely to experience health service barriers, and more likely to rely on neighbours and friends for care support 

Granted to the Northern Ontario School of Medicine, University of Guelph, University of Ottawa, and Lakehead Universities for $ 24,750, this novel project incorporates both research and training, and will benefit LGBT seniors across Ontario – in urban, rural and remote communities.

The purpose of this research project is to develop toolkit that includes a suite of educational resources to aid healthcare professionals in offering inclusive care that addresses the needs of LGBT older adults.  

The objectives of this project are to:

  • promote and enhance awareness of the unique needs of older adults who identify as LGBT as they enter late stages of life;
  • develop an interactive training and educational tool to assist healthcare providers to provide inclusive, safe and comprehensive care for older adults who identify as LGBT;
  • pilot the interactive training tool with interdisciplinary future healthcare providers; and
  • evaluate the implementation of the training tool and assess learner comprehension and satisfaction.

The project Speaking Up and Speaking Out will produce a toolkit for healthcare professionals caring for older LGBT adults facing the end of their lives and will contribute to the development of a healthcare environment that is inclusive of all older adults.

Evaluation of a Geriatric Education Program for Orthopedic Surgery Residents

Orthopedic surgeons provide care to older adults through multiple avenues including joint arthroplasty and management of fractures. Individuals aged 65 and older account for 86% of hip fractures. Statistics Canada estimates that by 2030, 25% of Canada’s population will be over the age of 65. Given the aging population, orthopedic surgeons will need to care for an increasing proportion of elderly patients.  

The RTO/ERO Foundation awarded $ 24,655 to Mount Sinai Hospital and the University of Toronto to evaluate a Geriatric Education Program for Orthopedic Surgery Residents. The project aims to strengthen geriatric competencies among orthopedic trainees, leading to a new generation of orthopedic surgeons better equipped for the care of our growing older adult population.

There are numerous challenges associated with older adults undergoing and recovering from surgery. For example, hip fracture repairs in particular are more strongly associated with poor outcomes: significant medical complications, death, loss of independence, financial burden, and an increased risk for delirium following surgery.

While the optimal process would be to work with a geriatrician to co-manage patients, there are not enough geriatricians to make this realistic. Therefore the need to strengthen geriatric competencies among orthopedic surgeons is critical.

Funds from the RTO/ERO foundation will be used to: 

  • fund medical student summer research assistants; 
  • cover research expenses such as study participant incentives, transcription and printing services; and,
  • facilitate dissemination of study findings through participation in conferences.  
  • Rotation evaluation and a session with stakeholders

Researchers hope to identify the program’s strengths and limitations, and determine how they can better provide geriatric education to orthopedic surgeons. Knowledge gained from the study can subsequently be used to improve the current program and facilitate the implementation of geriatric education in medical training programs across Ontario.  

Volunteer Administered Cognitive Stimulation to Enhance the Quality of Life of Aging Adults in Long-Term Care

Impaired cognition is one of the most disabling conditions in older adulthood, and has severe consequences on an individual’s overall health and quality of life – reducing a senior’s ability to accurately communicate pain to health care providers, cope with chronic disease symptoms, carry out functional activities of daily living, and perform self-care. 

More than half (54.7%) of long-term care home residents in Ontario have dementia. Although we are currently limited in our ability to cure these cognitive impairments, recent evidence demonstrates that we can stimulate, maintain, and even improve the cognitive functioning of people with dementia, which can help slow disease progression and have beneficial effects on quality of life.

The RTO/ERO Foundation has awarded $ 25,000 to Baycrest Hospital, the University of Toronto, Meighen Manor, and Rekai Centres at Sherbourne Place and Wellesley Central Place, to investigate the benefits of using cognitive stimulation with elderly long-term care residents during friendly visits by volunteers.  

The Project aims to show that the use of cognitive stimulation exercises used in conversation with residents will lead to improved behaviours, mood and quality of life. 

Unique to this project is that it will investigate the benefits of cognitive programming, and develop practical, resource-friendly ‘kits’ with which to deliver such programming within underserviced long-term care communities.  Through the cost effective use of volunteers, this project will examine the short- and longer-term impact of a relatively simple and affordable, pen-and-paper program to older adults residing in long-term care.

Beyond Bones: Building Educational Bridges between Orthopedic Surgery and Geriatric Medicine

Situated at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, the "Orthogeriatrics" rotation brings together orthopedics and geriatrics in a partnership to acquaint Orthopedic Surgery trainees with a holistic Geriatric Medicine lens in approaching complex older patients with broader issues such as frailty, recurrent falls, cognitive changes, and multiple medical comorbidities and medications requiring judicious management.

The evaluation project, funded through the RTO/ERO Foundation, aims to complete a rigorous scholarly evaluation of this novel curriculum experience. The goal would be to help disseminate this educational model to other surgical residency programs to include a mandatory geriatric medicine module in their training programs.

Incorporating geriatric medicine training into multiple medical curricula and building a broader capacity to provide geriatric care throughout the health care system is seen as one of the best ways to address the issue of the shortage of geriatricians in Ontario and beyond.

The evaluation project was designed to answer three questions:

  • Does the curriculum increase knowledge & attitudes in geriatrics?
  • How does it affect residents' comfort & behaviors?
  • How can the curriculum be improved for the future?
  • Adrian Chan, a summer medical student in the program, presented the preliminary findings in August. The results have been positive, showing improvements in knowledge and attitudes among the trainees who completed the geriatrics curriculum.

    Observations from project participants...

    "The fracture might be the end-point. Often it's all the medical issues that need to be addressed...I think that this is a partnership that is a must as an orthopod." Senior Resident
    "There is a lot more ... one-to-one patient time spent from the MDs, which is a change I've seen" (After the training, the charge nurse noticed that residents were spending more time with the patient) Charge Nurse
    The Orthogeriatrics Evaluation Project is one of ten active projects across Ontario funded by the RTO/ERO Foundation.